Review | THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA at Intrinsic Theatre Company

Review | THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA at Intrinsic Theatre Company

Pictured: Juan Castañeda (foreground) and Debbie Baños (background). Photo by Madison Kesselring.

By Aaron Lockman

We begin on a cramped, colorful, and cartoonish set from Therese Ritchie that consists of your basic charming Christmas kitsch, with a decorated tree and wooden blocks painted to look like presents. In the living room of a suburban home on Christmas Eve, alcoholic ex-husband George (played with a swaggering drunken charm by Erich Peltz) stumbles onstage and shouts incoherently at his ex-wife Mary (Bailey Savage) about some news he received that day. At that moment, who should stumble in but Santa Claus (Juan Castañeda) in all his jolly glory, to confirm the crazy truth. Mary’s two oddball children (Tess Galbiati and Kamil Borowski) were in fact not borne of George, but of Santa himself. I’ll give them credit; I did not see that coming. The rest of the play mostly consists of when Santa tries to bring his new family back to the North Pole, and the farcical hijinks that ensue when fellow immortal Mrs. Claus (Debbie Baños) is not happy at this development.

Stories which subvert and satirize the image of Santa Claus are old hat at this point, and playwright Greg Kotis is intensely aware of this. So he paints Santa as a sort of leftover Greek god; immortal, selfish, and bored. Fathering children with mortal women is, of course, a staple of mythology – and while it’s an entertaining comparison, Kotis leans on this point a bit too heavily; it often feels like the characters are trying to give us a history lecture about the origins of Santa.

It is the actors that give the show its punch, more so than the work itself. Charlotte Atlee is nasal, overexcited, and thoroughly adorable as Jo-Jo the overeager elf. Dan Krackhardt was my absolute favorite as Jim-Jim, the guitar-playing, absent-minded elf who always seems to have wandered onstage by accident; Krackhardt swings between bewildered facial expressions like a trapeze artist, and made me cackle many times over. And Debbie Baños is towering, terrifying, and ridiculous as the dominatrix-esque Mrs. Claus, with great command over the character’s evil-villain posturing.

The plot here is overstuffed and makes little sense. The blocking and fight direction is often stilted and awkward. The music is uniform and repetitive, and many in the cast are clearly not singers. And there are many segments with awkward pauses and flubbed lines. But goddamn if I don’t love this show anyway. It is clear to see that director David Lew Cooper wanted his actors to have fun above all else, and that attitude is present, palpable, and lovely. The show’s flaws are presented with such earnestness that they become part of its scrappy charm. THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA does not aim high, but it is a nice, worthwhile piece of fluff to lighten up your dreary winter, and I am interested to see how the new Intrinsic Theatre Company will build on its success moving forward.

THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA runs through December 29th. For more information visit IntrinsicTheatreCompany.com.

About author

Aaron Lockman

Aaron Lockman is an actor and playwright. Credits include Metropolis Theatre, Citadel Theatre, Eclectic Full Contact Theatre, the side project, Surging Films and Theatrics, and The Living Room. His plays have been seen at The Theater at Monmouth, Mary's Attic, Prop Theatre, and Columbia College. Aaron also writes reviews with Rescripted.org. You can hear his voice on the podcast The Audio Diary of Aaron Lockman, or on the audiobooks Surviving Hitler, Locke and Key, and The X-Files: Cold Cases. You might also have seen him narrating sky shows at the Adler Planetarium. Aaron enjoys walking dogs, playing with Legos, talking excitedly about astronomy, and making annoying puns. http://aaronlockman.com

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